James Komack: Writer/Director For My Favorite Martian

James Komack started out in his home town of New York City as a nightclub comic. In 1955 he got the part of baseball player Rocky in the smash-hit Broadway musical "Damn Yankees". The show coincidentally starred Ray Walston in his Tony-Award winning role as a devil named Mr. Applegate. (see photo upper right)

Jimmie Komack then became known to TV audience in the 1959 series "Hennessey" where he played Dr. Harvey Spencer Blair III. It was on "Hennessey" in 1960 that Mr. Komack branched out into writing and directing for television. It was also where he met future co-worker and friend, Bill Bixby.

In an interview from May 9, 1970 in the Buck County Courier-Times of Levittown, Pennsylvania. Bill Bixby recalled, "When I first met Jimmie, I was doing a bit on ‘Hennessey’. Jimmie heard me deliver my one line. He came out of his dressing room, walked up to me and asked me my name.

"I told him, and he said, ‘One day, Billy, you and I are going to do a series together.’"

The words proved very prophetic as the pair worked together not only on "My Favorite Martian", but on Bill’s second TV series, "The Courtship of Eddie’s Father". Besides producing ‘Courtship’, Jimmie played Norman Tinker on the series and also wrote and directed a number of episodes.

 (Bill Bixby and James Komack in ‘Courtship’)

James Komack wrote 12 episodes for "My Favorite Martian" and directed two of them, ("Poor Little Rich Cat" and "Rx For a Martian"), before leaving to produce the 1965-66 TV series "Mister Roberts" which was based on the hit Broadway play. Besides having directed some episodes of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "Get Smart", along with one episode of "Star Trek", Mr. Komack also directed multiple episodes of the 1967 "Tarzan" TV series. After the 1969-1972 run of ‘Courtship’, James Komack produced "Chico and the Man" in 1974 and the 1975 TV series,"Welcome Back, Kotter".


TV Producer Sherwood Schwartz recalls working with Jimmie Komack on "My Favorite Martian" back in 1963, when Mr. Schwartz was the script consultant for the show. In his book Brady, Brady, Brady,* Mr. Schwartz describes Jimmie Komack as a talented writer who wrote good scenes that sometimes ran a bit too long without advancing the plot. Mr. Schwartz gave Jimmie a diagram that organized a teleplay into Act I and Act II with boxes for highlights of each scene they contained. Mr. Schwartz commented that the device helped Jimmie, and in fact, ten years later, when Komack happened to meet Sherwood Schwartz, he pulled out the diagram from his wallet, gratefully telling Mr. Schwartz that thanks to it, he was able to sell "The Courtship of Eddie’s Father" and "Chico and the Man" to the studios.

* Brady, Brady, Brady by Sherwood Schwartz and Lloyd Schwartz © 2010 Page 32



In this interview in the Western Kansas Press from January 24, 1964, James Komack talked with journalist Joseph Finnegan about writing for "My Favorite Martian".

"Getting ideas for this one is the hardest of all the shows I’ve been on. When you hit on an idea for something like this show, it’s so unusual you have to set down restrictions and ground rules. If you don’t, the show becomes so wild it becomes completely unbelievable. This show has been fatal in terms of writers. It really chews them up. 

"You can’t open any other area about another Martian on Earth. It’s enough for an audience to realize that one is here. And the Martian can only have one man know who he is. Once two people know it’s a secret, it’s no secret."

The article states that "James’ biggest problem is fitting his space character into earthly situations."

Komack explains. "For instance, we once had a show about what happened to him when he had a cold. Humans sneeze. The Martian disappears. Everything else in that show was believable. His temperature went up, he got grouchy and his head was stuffed. You take a normal situation and put it in terms of another being."


MFM episodes written by James Komack:


10/13/63 "There Is No Cure for the Common Martian"

10/20/63 "Russians ‘R’ In Season"

1/12/64 "Poor Little Rich Cat" * wrote and directed

1/19/64 "R# For a Martian" * wrote and directed

3/8/64 "Uncle Martin's Broadcast"

5/3/64 "Unidentified Flying Uncle Martin"

5/10/64 "How You Going to Keep Them Down on the Pharmacy?"

5/24/64 "Who's Got the Power?"

6/28/64 "Uncle Martin's Wisdom Tooth"


11/1/64 "Extra! Extra! Sensory Perception!"

12/6/64 "Don’t Rain On My Parade"

5/9/65 "Never Trust a Naked Martian"


A CBS memo to James Komack became famous when its contents were revealed. The CBS executives declared that "A Martian wouldn’t say that", referencing a line in one of Komack’s scripts. Years later that memo served as the title and inspiration for a book by TV producer Leonard Stern which contained a collection of similar memos written by network executives to writers and producers over the decades.

 See MFM bibilography

Another interview with James Komack can be found in TV GUIDE May 29, 1971.

Photo credits top left, center: MGM/abc-tv/The Komack Company

Top right : Friedman-Abeles


Text ©2007-2011 JH Harison


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